Our storefront stocks pottery made by Scratyr Casale, all made with clay he harvests locally. Any unglazed, exposed brown ring on each piece is the rich clay of our neighborhoods peeking out.
Scratyr invited us over to his Woodbury studio to unload the kiln, to see a batch he’s just fired. His pottery crosses a line between functionality and artware. Eyes and monster teeth adorn many of his mugs, pitchers, and crocks. When his pieces are not just on shelves but in people’s hands, he told us he gets really happy.
Things that are part of a person’s everyday feels so much more appropriate than studio work…I have consistently used a fraction of the work that I make, so I have gotten to discover what is a really useful or texturally good form, what’s good in the kitchen, and what makes a really good coffee cup. – Scratyr, Hardscabble Stoneware
Each piece of pottery is hand shaped and thrown on a treadle wheel, which he powers by foot. Focusing on each piece’s form when that pottery is thrown, Scratyr is always eager to meet the creature after it’s born from the kiln. Prior to firing, it’s too supple to handle and thoroughly meet. Once finished, all his pottery has a nice heft .
These clay bodies are a mixture of local clay, glaze, and other industrial ingredients. He explained how each vein of clay in the earth is a little bit different. The clay on Short Mountain has a rich red tone, while the clay from Auburntown is yellow and brown. This reflects differences in iron, and the Auburntown clay has less limestone than Short Mountain clay.
The community between Woodbury and Auburntown is sometimes called Hardscrabble, which means “lots of work for little return.” It’s this namesake that inspires Scratyr’s pottery business, Hardscrabble Stoneware.
All his pottery is sealed with a foodsafe glaze. Glazes include a number of minerals and metals to reach their color, pigment, and luster. He uses ones with silica, or quartz, and metals like tin and copper. These glazes also include variations of feldspars and fluxes, which are oxides to lower the softening temperature of other glaze components. Scratyr sees glaze as a constant evolution. He doesn’t use premixed glaze and is always shifting into new glazes and making new types.
At one point, Scratyr made face jugs like many Southern Appalachian potters. When he learned of the roots of face jugs in African diaspora and the Black South, he turned to a style that resonates with who he is and where he comes from. He held one of his monster mugs and told us that he’s part of a goofy face lineage of potters.
While he’s fired in this Woodbury studio for four years, he’s made pottery since he was a teenager. His mother taught him, and her pieces were sold at her father’s produce stand. Each fall, Scratyr’s pap sold her painted pumpkins with faces alongside apples, pumpkins, and Indian corn, which is flint corn.
From this round of firing, Scratyr gushes about an electric, seafoam green glaze. It’s the first time he’s made a batch with this copper carbonate. He loves the way it pairs with lavender in the pieces. Scratyr showed the new design that joins his body of work, a mini-fridge crock for the urban fermenter. These crocks and the rest of the firing will be available for sale at White Oak Craft Fair, September 8th-9th.
His pottery is available year-round through Short Mountain Cultures. Scratyr appreciates that our customers and community are interested in his work. We’re stoked to support this craft through our business. A rhythm of our everyday, our workdays are enriched by the sight of his clay pottery.